Build Muscle and Lose Fat at the Same Time As a Footballer:
(Make sure you read the whole article and don’t skip around. You may find a Free 1 Month Gym Program somewhere ($600 Value for Free))
Homie, hope you’re doing well!
Summer is underway, which may mean it’s off-season time!
That means, it’s a great time to educate yourself in every subject that you need to work on and then fully immerse yourself into your self-development as a footballer and human.
Today, we are covering a topic I get asked about almost every day by email and on Instagram…
“Ric, how can I build muscle and lose fat at the same time as a footballer?”
The technical name for this process is called “body recomposition.”
Body recomposition can be very important for footballers who are looking to change their physique for the pitch, especially for those who have a “skinny fat” physique.
What is “Skinny Fat:”
“Skinny fat” footballers typically carry extra fat (mostly around their torso (lower stomach area)) and have less muscle (in their arms and legs) than the average pro footballer, which means they are far off the ideal physique that a footballer like yourself should strive for.
Body recomposition is possible, but it can be very tricky.
How You Lose Fat:
Like I always say, if you want to lose fat, you need to be in a slight caloric deficit (which means you need to burn more calories than you consume).
How to Gain Muscle:
If you want to gain muscle, you need to be in a slight caloric surplus (consume more calories than you burn).
Now, on paper, you might think being in a surplus and deficit at the same time seems impossible, right?
Well, technically speaking, you’d be right….
But not so quick… Ricky is here for you guys and girls!
You know I always deliver and bring solutions to your questions, and today is no different!
Ready to get into it? Let’s do it.
Here’s a Framework of How the Article Will Read:
(Make sure you don’t skip around because every part of the article is very important):
1.Why is body composition important for footballers?
2.Nutrition’s key role in body recomposition
3. How to work out in the gym for body recomposition
4.Consider focusing on ONE goal at a time
Part 1: Why is body composition important for footballers?
Before we get into the details of how to perform body recomposition, it’s important to cover why your body composition matters as a footballer in the first place.
As I always say, there needs to be a why for everything you do..
Now of course, I think we can both agree that the most important aspects of becoming a pro are your technical skills, tactical IQ and mindset.
Does Your Physique Really Matter in Football?
Your physique and fitness come after those (technique, tactical IQ, decision making).
If we’re being completely honest and judging from a “bodybuilders perspective” a lot of pros don’t have the best-looking physiques.
But, these are the most talented players in the business…
Look at Sergio Busquets, Leo Messi or even Neymar.
They don’t have that much muscle mass, and they occasionally carry some extra fat…
BUT, and there’s a “big but”: what do these 3 players have in common?
They are some of the most technically gifted players in the world.
They can do things with the ball that you and I simply can’t.
And I don’t think they care too much about building muscle and losing fat at the same time as a footballer.
As you know, becoming a pro footballer is very rare and very hard.
It’s super competitive and you have to be among the top 1% players in the world to make it.
But reaching these few players’ level of technical excellence would put you in the 0.0001% of players worldwide.
Messi & Neymar Don’t Have the “Best Physique”…
So… my point is that when players tell me that you don’t need to work towards obtaining a well-functioning footballer’s physique, I just answer they better be as good or better than Messi, Busquets or Neymar from a technical point of view to reach the top level.
Because the truth is, if you don’t have their technical and tactical ability AND don’t have a footballer’s physique, reaching the top level is going to be very unlikely.
Now, I don’t want to get too ‘sciency’ with you, but I want to reference a study that I went through to give you the best picture of the importance of your body composition as a footballer.
Importance of Body Composition According to a Scientific Paper:
According to a study entitled “Body Composition in Elite Soccer Players from Youth to Senior Squad” published in the National Library of Medicine in 2021; the level of body fat mass in the top level players has consistently decreased overtime.
This has to do with the modern game becoming more and more about your physical ability and having the ability to cover distance during a 90 minute match.
This shows that to stay at the top level, players are expected to keep a low body fat percentage.
If You’re Too Fat at Man City: You’re Not Training:
At the highest level, this is a key requirement set by many coaches.
Interestingly, Gael Clichy (former Man City leftback) gave an interview back in 2016 where he mentioned this about Guardiola:
“With him, if your weight is too high, you’re not training with the team”.
To be specific, Guardiola set a specific limit to body fat percentage for his players coming into pre-season.
If you didn’t meet the range, you wouldn’t train with the team.
With sports science becoming more and more important in pro football clubs nowadays, this comes as no surprise.
Players are getting fitter, stronger and faster every year, which means you need to give set yourself to that standard.
Also, just to emphasize how important it is to work on your body composition as a footballer, carrying extra fat has been proven to make you significantly slower.
Having Extra Body Fat Makes You Slower:
Why do you think all Olympian sprinters have 7-10% body fat?
Body fat mass is considered “dead weight!”
It does nothing for your speed and performance and only harms your power : weight ratio (PWR), which is the number one indicator for sprint potential.
Now, obviously, you can be as gifted as you like technically, but with 20% body fat, you’re not going to as move efficiently as you would with 10-12% body fat.
You will also most likely get outpaced on the pitch, which is the last thing we want.
In other words, by overlooking your physique and overall body composition, you’re missing out tremendously and even potentially harming your career.
Now, hopefully, I’ve convinced you why it’s important to have a footballer’s physique. Let’s get into the actionable advice!
2.Nutrition’s Key Role in Body Recomposition:
Debunking a few myths surrounding nutrition:
Let’s debunk a couple myths that you’ve probably believed in the past.
There’ve been so many myths surrounding nutrition in the past few years, and every single one of them always makes me laugh….
The truth is…
Most People Want to Look Good Naked:
Besides us footballers, one of the main reason “a regular person” trains and does their best to eat healthy is because they care how they look naked..
Obviously, many also care about how training makes them feel mentally and physically, but from a “vanity standpoint,” people want to look good.
But, most people also aren’t willing to put much effort into reaching their dream physique.
Obviously, that’s something many brands, marketers and so-called “fad diets” have latched onto.
They’re coming out with quick-fix solutions to give consumers the illusion that they can reach their goal with little to no effort…
Fat burners, vibrating “auto-workout” ab belts, fad diets…
You name it, they got it!
It’s a multibillion-dollar industry, and people are willing to pay big bucks for these so-called “solutions” that you and me both know don’t even work.
They have you try these “solutions” and it just frustrates you even more because it doesn’t work, and they get you to try another BS product, because people are too lazy to preach consistency nowadays..
But, you and me both know, it’s the only thing that actually works.
The sad truth is: fat burner pills and body wraps sell better than someone who recommends following a balanced, nutrient-dense diet consistently over a long enough period of time.
Humans naturally like things to be quick and easy..
And like I said, that’s what the industry latches onto.
Consistency > Intensity!
If you’ve been following me for a while, you will know this already…
You don’t need to completely ELIMINATE foods from your diet and put them off limits.
Because that makes you want it even more.
Eating one pizza will not make you fat..
Just like eating a plate like grilled chicken, brown rice and vegetables will not make you fit.
It’s super simple: to lose fat, you need to be in a caloric deficit.
To build muscle, you need to be in a caloric surplus.
It’s easy to promote “cut out this, cut out that.” This instills fear in people, and we don’t want that.
With that being said, all food can be included into a whole-food nutrient dense diet.
As promised, before reading further, you can check out my Free 1 Month Gym Program and Free “How to Become a Pro Masterclass”.
If you want to become more confident on the ball, become faster and stronger on the pitch, and eventually play in the top leagues in the world, this is exactly what you’re looking for and it’s FREE! ($1500 Value for FREE). Just enter your email below:
Carbs are Your Friend:
Like we said before, there are many fad diets that will promote you to completely cut out carbs and be “fueled by fat.”
But, I highly advise you do not do that.
You will not have any energy to perform (which is most important).
You’re a footballer, you need carbohydrates to perform and have fuel for games and training sessions.
Carbohydrates are the most efficient and best fuel source for you as a footballer.
Warning For You:
If you have a trainer promoting the “no carbs” lifestyle, I would highly recommend cutting that trainer out of your life.
May be drastic. But, if they know you’re a footballer, and they’re trying to get you to cut carbohydrates, they have no idea what they’re talking about.
Never listen to anyone who says you should eliminate carbs from your diet to build muscle and lose fat as a footballer . Period.
How are you supposed to have the energy you need to build muscle in the gym if you’re not providing fuel to your engine?
The goal is to focus on a balanced diet of whole, nutrient-dense foods with the 80/20 nutrition rule:
-Eat 80% according to your goals
-Eat 20% what you love
Be consistent, and there’s no need to eliminate the foods you love.
Whether you’re trying to lose fat, build muscle or do both at the same time (as we are discussing today), being consistent with the 80-20 rule will get you most of the results you want.
This simple rule (when followed consistently) will not only provide you with the right energy to crush your workouts and recover from your training sessions daily, but it will help you become a healthier human overall.
Nutrition Advice for Building Muscle and Losing Fat as a Footballer (Body Recomposition):
Calories & Protein:
Calories and protein are the only two things you need to worry about when it coms to building muscle and losing fat as a footballer.
In terms of the specific quantities you need to eat, I’m going to share some easy calculations and provide examples (for context and easy application) with you.
This will allow me to be more specific and provide you with a clear roadmap towards your body recomposition journey.
Like we already said, body recomposition can be tricky on paper, but these tools are going make it much clearer for you guys.
How to Build the Perfect Diet as a Footballer:
Your Basal Metabolic Rate:
Firstly, you need to calculate your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate).
This is the number of calories you would burn by just resting all day and not doing any physical activity.
Your BMR = (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age in years) + 6.
Let’s Take A Quick Example (so it’s easier to understand):
Based off your calculation, we come to the example that your BMR is 1900 calories.
This means that you’d need 1900 calories a day to keep your body and brain “functioning well,” even as a sedentary human (sitting around doing nothing).
Now, we need to calculate your daily caloric need, which includes all of your training and your daily activities.
As a footballer, you’re probably training anywhere from 3-7 days a week (I hope you take one day lightly ;)).
How to Calculate Your BMR if You’re Training 3-5 Days Per Week:
If you’re working out 3-5 days a week, multiply your BMR by 1.55 to obtain your daily caloric need.
How to Calculate Your BMR if You’re Training 6-7 Days Per Week:
If you’re working out 6-7 days a week, multiply by 1.725.
In the example above (where your BMR is 1900 calories), let’s say you train 6 days per week.
On average, your daily caloric need would be 3277 calories.
With 3277 calories, you’ll stay at your current weight.
NOW, this is the number you should work off to build your meal plan/diet depending on your goals (whether you want to gain or lose weight).
Please keep in mind that these are estimates and not exacts.
Therefore, you need to adjust your deficit or surplus according to the results you see from your diet and how hard you’re training.
I would recommend taking the information (math) that I’ve provided to calculate your own calories and then adjust based off of your “own individual” activity level.
Maybe you will need to eat more calories..
Maybe you will need to eat less.
Use this article as the blueprint to build your diet and then do your best to individualize.
If you’re having trouble, you can find yourself an online nutrition coach or personal trainer experienced with body recomposition to help you out.
The Importance of Eating a Lot of Protein:
In the case of body recomposition, the ideal method is to be in a slight caloric deficit with a HIGH protein intake.
Several studies have shown that protein synthesis decreases by close to 20% when in a caloric deficit, which means your muscles’ ability to grow and recover becomes limited.
To offset that natural phenomenon, your goal is to consume more protein than you typically would need in order to lose fat, all while building muscle (body recomposition).
While a typical deficit would be consuming 250-500 calories below your daily caloric need, we’re going shoot for a 200 caloric deficit.
As a footballer, we don’t want to go to low and compromise recovery.
This means you’ll be consuming 3277 – 200 = 3077 calories a day in our example.
In terms of specific protein intake, which is the second most important indicator (besides total calories), you’d typically consume 0.7-1g of protein per pound of bodyweight in a regular caloric deficit.
However, as we are trying to build muscle and lose fat at the same time, the goal is to hit 1.2g of protein per pound of bodyweight.
This gives you a clear picture of how to structure your diet in terms of numbers and track your calories and protein (which are the 2 most important numbers for body recomposition).
Like I often say, I’m not a big advocate of tracking your calories all the time, but in the case of body recomposition, you want to be as precise as possible.
As a footballer, it’s always better to stay in a slight caloric deficit (200-300 caloric deficit max).
Cutting too aggressively, just like building muscle too quickly, can be very detrimental to your body, especially as an athlete.
Like we’ve spoken about many times throughout the article; you are not building muscle and cutting fat just like any “regular person.”
You have to keep in mind that you need to perform every single day on the field.
Therefore, the way you eat and train has to be very different to a “regular gym goer.”
3. How to Work out in the Gym to Build Muscle and Lose Fat as a Footballer:
You may think your gym routine will change drastically for body recomposition, but it realistically shouldn’t.
The most important thing for building muscle and losing fat at the same time as a footballer is making the majority of your focus on your nutrition.
If you were a “regular gym goer,” and you wanted to cut fat as quick as possible, the types of workouts you perform may be more towards circuit-style, higher rep groups of exercises in order to burn more calories.
But as I said, as a footballer, you need to think differently.
Your main goal as a footballer is to perform well when match day comes around.
Circuit-style, higher rep workouts may be detrimental to your performance during the season because you will be “overly fatigued,” and we don’t want that. We want you to be as fresh as possible for your game.
However, again, for body recomposition, you’re in a slight caloric deficit and you still need to build muscle, so there’s no need to burn extra calories specifically in the gym.
You can focus on improving your strength, add in hypertrophy movements, plyometrics, or even bodyweight exercises.
As long as you’re implementing slight progressive overload, eating the right number of calories, and taking in enough protein, you’ll eventually reach your goal of body recomposition.
And yes, it will take more time than the average gym-goer…
But that’s okay.
Because you’re different, and it’s ok to be different 🙂
As with everything in the gym, don’t go overboard : aim to progress your weight, but never compromise technique and speed of execution.
You’re looking to become more explosive on the pitch, not aim for new PRs every week!
4.Consider Focusing on ONE Goal at a Time:
Although building muscle and losing fat as a footballer is possible, it requires time and patience to hit two goals at the same time.
That’s why I highly recommend analyzing your physique, your strengths and weakness and then focusing on one single goal at a time. The goal is to PRIORITIZE and then EXECUTE.
For instance, if you’re a 22-year-old footballer with more than 20% body fat, don’t even think about body recomposition.
You first need to put your full focus on cutting fat, which means you can get into a more aggressive caloric deficit than you would for a total body recomposition.
Once you reach a healthier body fat level (closer to 10%), then you can consider getting into a “lean bulk.”
The opposite is also true : if you clearly need to build muscle but have a little bit of extra fat on your lower stomach area, first focus on building muscle.
When you’re happy with the amount of muscle you have, you can then switch to a slight caloric deficit in order to burn that excess fat and reach your ideal physique.
Overall, as with everything, you need to be patient!
Don’t go too hard with the deficit, or you might lack energy to perform.
Don’t go overboard with a surplus, as this could make you slower and less agile.
Your body needs to adapt to these changes. You don’t want to shock the system too quickly. If you do, you will definitely not perform your best on the pitch.
If your main goal is to cut fat, here’s a sample meal plan for footballers looking to lose fat.
Conversely, if you’re looking to build muscle first, go check out the article I wrote a few weeks ago on how to build a physique like Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as the one on how to build muscle as a footballer.
The main takeaway here is that: simplicity, consistency, patience and mastering the basics is they key.
Sometimes, wanting to do everything at once – losing fat and building muscle – can be super overwhelming.
Breaking down your goal in different phases can be more effective.
To sum it all up, although it is definitely hard to implement…
Building muscle and losing fat at the same time is possible for you as a footballer.
But just like anything, anything worth having is hard and takes a lot of hard work, time, consistency and patience.
As you’ve seen from the article , you can build muscle and lose fat at the same time as a footballer but it will take ruthless consistency and hard and smart work.
If you apply the actionable nutrition advice I presented in this blog post, which is the single most important factor for body recomposition, you’ll get there and reach your ideal physique.
When it comes to the gym, you don’t need to drastically change your current regimen, as long as you’re progressively overloading and progressing in your workouts all while prioritizing your form and speed of movement.
However, please remember it isn’t all about reaching a certain body fat percentage.
Yes, on average, footballers have 8-12% body fat, so aiming for that range is good.
But the most important thing is to develop the right habits in the kitchen and in the gym during the process of your body recomposition.
Like I always say, your body loves routine and most pro footballers have reached the level they’re at due to their discipline and consistent habits.
Also, it might be wiser to “pick a side” between building muscle or losing fat depending on your situation, your training experience and where you are in the season, as we covered in the last part.
Either way, you’ll need to have patience and consistency, as you won’t get results overnight.
You know me, I don’t give you BS advice!
I give you solid tips which can transform your mind and body if you apply them consistently.
If you’re going to start a body recomposition journey, please do so during off-season.
The last thing you want to do is deprive yourself from energy during season, when you need to be performing in games week in week out.
Also, as you look to burn fat and build muscle, always keep in mind the most important element is how you feel and perform on the pitch.
We’re not bodybuilders, we’re footballers.
And as I always say, each of us is very different in our physiology and psychology, so your goal is to experiment with different body fat levels/”bodyweights” to see at what level you feel best and move the best at.
The key is movement and feeling as comfortable as you can on the pitch when game day comes to help your team secure those 3 points!
If you liked this article, I’m sure you’ll love the RicFit Academy App!
You can try it out for free for 7 days here:
Have a great week and keep crushing those goals my friend.
Your Football Mentor & Big Brother,